February 18, 2018 |
Music Therapy Helps Soothe, Comfort Patients
May 29, 2013  | 

Iowa City, IA - At just 10 years old, little Pammie Quintero-Rodriguez has already spent much of her life in and out of University of Iowa Children’s Hospital. She’s had more than 13 surgeries, mostly for heart and lung ailments, and has been admitted several times with respiratory problems.

Many days she feels tired and prefers to sleep.

But that's not the case when Kirsten Nelson knocks on Pammie's door and walks into the room with a guitar slung over her shoulder, When Kirsten comes, Pammie gets to sing—and sometimes music is the only thing that makes her happy.

“Those are the most powerful days for me as a therapist, when I go in to see a patient and they’re really down, and then when the music starts you just see that spark,” Nelson says.


Nelson is a music therapist at UI Children’s Hospital, one of three board-certified music therapists at UI Hospitals and Clinics. Through her work, Nelson brings music to hospitalized children in a variety of ways, from singing and listening to music to writing songs and playing music games.

“As a music therapist I’m required to be functional on guitar, piano, and voice,” Nelson says. “So, we are live musicians first and foremost. I play a lot of guitar in my work because I find it works very well with what we’re doing.”

Research has shown there’s a correlation between music and pain management—something Nelson takes to heart. Most of the children she works with on an individual basis are facing long-term hospitalization and are usually chronically ill. She’s referred to the families either by the child’s medical team or a social worker, and plans her time with each child according to their need. Continue>

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